Top ten things you like/hate about pep - Kudos or brickbats?

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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Fri Mar 05, 2004 8:45 am

All right, here's your chance. Give me your best shots and strongest complaints - or tell me what things you appreciate most about the Piano Education Page. Any comment short of profanity is acceptable, but what I'd really like to hear is what you think about the site generally. I understand that almost everyone can find something on the site they disagree with (indeed, there are some things on the site with which I disagree!), but what I'd really like to hear is what we're doing right and what we're doing wrong. PEP is the largest and one of a VERY few non-commercial, ad-free piano sites on the Internet, with all the work on it donated by those educators and students who participate in it. For our benefit and that of the rest of the piano education community, tell us what bugs you and what excites you about PEP as constructively and specifically as possible.
All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man's life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual towards freedom. - Albert Einstein
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Postby Mins Music » Fri Mar 05, 2004 5:50 pm

Okay, I'll have to go and have another really good look at it.
Back with responses later. :)

p.s. I like that it has a forum :cool:
"I forget what I was taught, I only remember what I've learnt." - Patrick White, Australian novelist.
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Postby 65-1074818729 » Fri Mar 05, 2004 7:00 pm

I'm with Mins Music on this one.

Will need a few days.
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Postby 84-1077939951 » Fri Mar 05, 2004 8:11 pm

I'm a newcomer. So I've barely scratched the surface of the Piano Education Page. In fact, the only thing I've looked at has been this forum. Thanks for being here.

I live in the Mojave desert of California. Its a desert in other ways too. Folks around here think Chopin is what you do to make firewood--sorry, I couldn't resist that. As far as I know, I'm the only classical musician in town.

So its nice to have a community of pianists to talk to. I also like that you--the moderator--keep putting topics out their for us to respond to. Oh, and thanks for emailing me when I joined. I tried to email you back, but my decrpit software failed me.

Speaking of software, thanks for not being so high tech that you would crash my computer. Also, there's activity here. Thats no small thing. I belong to a couple of other music sites; and people check in about once a month!

I'm looking forward to getting to Know PEP and the community of pianists, teachers, and students in the coming months.
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Postby 81-1074658942 » Sat Mar 06, 2004 12:08 am

Three things I LOVE

1) the forum
2) the teaching studio section [even though I'm still a
student]
3) the artist/educator interviews. Those are fabulous!
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Postby Mins Music » Sat Mar 06, 2004 6:39 am

Okay John, you asked for it - brutal honesty, no they weren't the words - anything short of profanity. Well I can do that.
First of all, know that I have your site on my 'favourites' list.

The absolute forte of this site (in my opinion) is the teaching studio. Even before I found the message board, I printed these articles and now have them placed in a folder.

My second top opinion is the "Listening Room" - Classical midi's. Good selection.

Love the interviews. Some real words of wisdom in there.
If you would like to make these stand out a little more - to entice people to read them (I had to admit I had skimmed over them until Quidam brought them to my attention and I went looking for them) you could perhaps pick out some of the 'gems', put them in quotation marks, have a small picture of the perfromer/educator with a link to the interview. If people are 'grabbed' by a few words, they're more likely to be interested and 'bothered' reading them. It would be a real shame if people did 'skim' over these interviews because they are full of wonderful advice - especially Dr Bill's. John, where is your interview? Did I miss it? There needs to be one - and picture of you. (If there is one please let me know where to find it).

My overall concern about the site in general is the emphasis on classical music. Understood, it's definitely the most popular of music and what is used by the majority of 'serious' teachers and students - as it should be. However, to balance things, it would be nice to include other music. Jazz in particular. If there is any way at all (sorry, me ideas - you workman) to have a collection of midis playing jazz piano, or contemporary works (not 20th century) it would be something unique to the 'midi world' on the net. Henry Mancini's "Pink Panther Theme", "Forrest Gump Suite" etc. It might be a lot of work for little benefit, but it will also give people the idea that, 'yes, of course there's something for you here even if you don't like classical'. ??? how we going? Heart beat still relatively moderato?

Kids Page. Unfortunately, I think this is a weak spot on PEP. You've gone to a lot of effort for them and have included graphics and heaps of links. I'm just wondering how successful you feel this part of the site has been. Is there any way of knowing how many kids look at this site? Would you be able to add a counter to find out?
Okay specifics. I'm talking nitty gritty here.

LAYOUT/VISUAL APPEAL
I think this needs work. I can see that you've tried to make it 'harmonise' with the rest of the site, but I think kids need to feel they've entered a wonderland and have been set free (in a safe environment).
The background is very 'grown up'. Stark white with coloured notes/staffs/clefs etc would give it more a 'candy' store feel. Check out http://www.cottagesoft.com/~songbird/gr ... ackgrounds (just in case you haven't come across it, sorry if you have).
The font is too much like the rest of the site. My favourite font for kids is Comic Sans MS. Easy to read but looks more hand written. I would set it at about 12 or 14 - large writing, easy to read.

CONTENT
I think you need to ...trying to think of the nicest way to put it ... oh .. change it. Mmmmm.
Especially the links section. I got overwhelmed with the choice and a little 'tired' of reading.
One point in particular. I'm not sure you need to give kids links to EVERY thing that is fun. It's the PIANO education page. I would keep the links specific to the piano, or at least to music.
Limit the links, or only show three or four at a time with the option of clicking on 'more links'.

I'll post this and add some more thoughts later.

And to everyone else, p l e a s e don't think I'm a meanie, just trying to help. I like you, love the PEP! :laugh:
"I forget what I was taught, I only remember what I've learnt." - Patrick White, Australian novelist.
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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Sat Mar 06, 2004 10:39 am

Mins,

Thanks for your comments. I don't want to go into all of them, since I don't want to affect what other people might say, but let me say a few things. First, as I communicated to you privately a couple days ago, I'm in the midst of a complete reformat and partial rewrite of the site. Though the layout of the pages will remain almost the same (i.e. location of various elements), the appearance will change dramatically. Unfortunately this process takes over two weeks, working full time and even with the benefit of Cascading Style Sheets used throughout the site. CSS is one of the few "whiz-bang" things we do on the site, because it seems most people's browsers can handle it without crashing and it makes the site look better and more consistent.

We would love to have some jazz MIDI's on the site: unfortunately that gives us all kinds of copyright problems, since much of that is still out of the public domain. Failing that, we've tried to include as much "jazzy" material as possible (Bolcom, Gershwin, Copland etc). Copyright issues may not be as tricky where you live, but, in the U.S., the RIAA and ASCAP have been suing kids everywhere over downloading music and forcing music sites which offer music files (even MIDI's) to shut down or pay royalties, neither of which is acceptable for PEP, since we don't have any income. This is an ongoing problem that doesn't seem to be resolvable in the short term. I've tried to make up for the lack of jazz in the MIDI files with lots of links to good jazz sites, though I admit that isn't the same.

Regarding the Kids page, I have never monitored it specifically, though it has been separately linked hundreds of times by other kid-related sites. That said, I sense that I could do more. I've been slowly rewriting that page as well over the last few months, and have provided a forum here for kids. I don't understand why you're not seeing the Comic Sans font, since that's what I use for all the titles (though not body text, since it gets hard to read at smaller sizes). I'm changing the backgrounds of the page in this rewrite, though it will still maintain certain elements in common with the rest of the site. We never had a counter on this part of the site, since we're not trying to make money from it. Truthfully, i think teachers appreciate it more than their kids, but that is just a guess-timate.

The Links part of the site needs the most work; I just don't have time to surf the Web fully evaluating sites, given the HUGE amount of work it takes even to do monthly upgrades on the over 250 separate documents (over 700 pages) that make up PEP. I depend on recommendations from others that I can then check out specifically. The problem is that things have become so completely commercialized on the Web, that I can't take anybody's word for the content. I have to look at sites in detail before linking them.

The biggest problem I have is getting teachers and pianists to follow through with commitments to write for the site. Each request for an article interview or review takes a certain amount of work for me (often, a lot). When people don't follow through, that time, which could have been used to do more with PEP gets wasted. There is no undertext to that comment, but rather it just points out the obvious: that I have only a certain amount of time. When I can't get new material, I always update/upgrade the information on several pages with each upgrade. That's why it now takes me about a month to do each upgrade.

Anyway, your comments are well-taken and are along some of the same lines I've been thinking about for the rewrite I'm doing. That's the reason I started this topic, in the hope of getting some outside input into the rewrite. Thanks everybody for your comments. Keep making them! :D
All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man's life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual towards freedom. - Albert Einstein
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Postby Dr. Bill Leland » Sat Mar 06, 2004 4:27 pm

I have to disagree with Mins Music about our "emphasis on classical music" and omission of jazz and other styles.

It seems to me that this is a non-issue. PEP is not really devoted exclusively to ANY kind of piano repertoire as such, nor does it offer a course in Piano Lit 101. Rather, it is what the title says it is: a piano education site offering ideas and suggested materials and techniques for piano teachers, students and performers. The choice of repertoire is entirely up to them, and current teaching literature and methods regularly include jazz, pop tunes, themes from movies and TV shows and so on, as well as traditional classical fare.

To be sure, we branch out into a many related areas. A lot of space is devoted, for example, to computers and music software, since these teaching aids have in recent years come more and more into use in professional piano teaching studios. And it's true that in pages like "Meet the Composer" or "Vote for Your Favorite" we tend to pick the standard giants like Bach, Chopin and Mozart--maybe we ought to do one on John Williams or Hoagy Carmichael. (And that's why my recent "composite composer" choice included Alban Berg and George Crumb--just to be ornery, because some of my favorites weren't represented!)

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Postby Mins Music » Sat Mar 06, 2004 7:51 pm

Dr. Bill Leland wrote:I have to disagree with Mins Music about our "emphasis on classical music" and omission of jazz and other styles.

Dr. Bill

Just my initial impression. Sorry. Yes, I now understand about the copyright issue, wasn't thinking about that.

Keep up the good work guys. :)
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Postby Mins Music » Sat Mar 06, 2004 8:10 pm

Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Editor wrote:I don't understand why you're not seeing the Comic Sans font, since that's what I use for all the titles (though not body text, since it gets hard to read at smaller sizes).

I can see you've used this font for your headings. It's a great font! :cool:

I guess my point was to make the body text this font too, in black, but larger. I disagree about it being harder to read. My eyes are automatically drawn to this font wherever it is on a page. Even small stuff. BUT - beauty is in the eye of the beholder, doesn't mean I'm right, just an opinion. Another font I use a lot with my kid's projects is Tahoma.

I want to congratulate whoever it was who came up with the idea of the TARDIS time travel interviews. These are really well written, amusing and educational too. Well done!
"I forget what I was taught, I only remember what I've learnt." - Patrick White, Australian novelist.
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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Sun Mar 07, 2004 10:49 am

Thanks Mins.

Nancy Ostromencki and I write the Meet the Composer interviews together, though she does most of the research for them and provides the time and setting for the interview. They take a lot of work for both of us; that's the reason we don't do as many as we'd like. I came up with the original idea, since I'm a long-time Dr. Who fan. It's just a shame that Dr. Who is no longer broadcast here and no longer made in Great Britain. That was a great series, with endless possibilities from the time/space travel format. :)
All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man's life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual towards freedom. - Albert Einstein
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Postby 65-1074818729 » Mon Mar 08, 2004 5:47 pm

I have given your question serious thought, and I can find absolutely nothing to suggest one way or the other.

Your site is very well done, has loads of relevant material, and is easy to navigate.

The best I can offer is, if in the future I think of something that may be of benefit, I will let you know.

Keep up the great work. :;):
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Postby Annalisa » Wed Apr 14, 2004 11:06 am

I love the whole web site, it's one of my favorite places to visit on the web. There is so much good information here! I really do love the listening room.
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Postby 104-1082206393 » Sat Apr 17, 2004 6:58 am

I'm a spanish visitor of your page and I think is very interesting, but you must make a forum in spanish to the spanish-talking musicians that don't speak spanish very well.
Thanks
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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Sat Apr 17, 2004 8:10 am

Por Sr. Conceiro: There IS a forum for Spanish speakers and has been for some time. Just go to the bottom of the list of forums and you'll find the PEP en Espanol forum. There hasn't been a lot of activity there yet, but we're hoping Spanish speakers like you will both participate in it and spread the word. :)



Edited By Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Editor on 1082211274
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